Five Things I Miss from Building Web Sites in the 90s

1. WYSIWYG Editors

Long before we have such lovely tools as Visual Studio Code, Webstorm, or even Atom. We had a slew of WYSIWYG (Pronounced wizzy-wig) or, more verbosely known as _What You See Is What You Get_, editors. These tools allowed you to edit your html pages both visually using a graphical editor or through code.

Dreamweaver for Mac

2. HTML Image Maps

This was a technique that used to be super common on websites. You would set up a single image as a navigation or splash screen. Then you would define clickable coordinates inside the image. You could set up rectangles, circles, or even custom polygon shapes to fit your clickable action to just the perfect part of the image.

1998 Disney.com was one big image map

3. HTML Tables with CHONKY borders.

One of the hallmarks of early website design was the gratuitous use of html tables for damn near everything. With these early tables we didn’t have a lot of css options to style them. Instead we had to rely on the tag attributes like border, cellspacing, and cellpadding. These attributes in combination with an often questionable sense of style resulted in some of the chonkiest tables you’ve ever seen. Just seeing that 3d border popping out of the screen evokes a strong sense of nostalgia for me personally.

4. Frame Sets

Back before we had flex layouts, fancy css positioning, and other modern layout tools in the browser, we had frames and frame sets. These, now obsolete in html5, tags allowed you partition your page into different areas and load a different HTML page into that frame. They were a great way to set up sidebar or header navigation. I see them as sort of the original single page app. Famesets allowed you to change the content of any frame by loading a new html page into the frame, all while leaving the containing page in place. No need to reload the whole page!

The 1996 Space Jam Website made gratuitous use of frames.

5. Web art

This is probably my favourite and the most nostalgia evoking item on this list. Every so often the topic of those old hosting sites like Angelfire, Tripod, or Geocities comes up. If you visit these old sites you are often greeted with tiled background images, graphical horizontal rules, animated email gifs, and the ubiquitous visitor counter.

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Tori Holmes-Kirk

Tori Holmes-Kirk

Tori is a professional web developer and a hobbiest Unity developer living in Amsterdam, NL with her wife and their dog Laney.